February 11, 2011

EDITOR: The final stage of the revolution seems to be here!

In another facile speech, Mubarak has clarified beyond any doubt, that he is not in touch with reality. Omar Suleiman, his sidekick and servile deputy, is not much more connected either. Both seem to think that they can spout more lies and get the demonstrators home, and continue with their corrupt regime, by promising democracy by September. The Egyptian people know – it is now or never!

Meanwhile, on the farm in Washington, the animals are in disarray… not quite decided if they prefer democracy to ‘stability’ they keep swivelling like a weather-vane gone out of control. It seems that Obama is listening to both sides, and keeps changing his mind on a daily basis. Two things are now clear:

1. The US administration is not well-informed (they don’t seem to have Al Jazeera on the White House channels…) and is not clear about what is happening in Egypt. This may sound incredible, but there is no other expalnation to their bizarre switching of policy.

2. The US administration is also not clear and have not decided what they want out of this situation – do they prefer to see the dictator continue and choke the Egyptian people, or do they risk allowing democracy in Egypt to develop? The choice is difficult for a governemnt which has supported dictators and and brutal occupations as far as memory goes, and not just in the Middle East. Do they want ‘stability’, or do they want to foment unrest and be the arbiter?

This situation is most dangerous for the whole Middle East, now moving at enormous speed to modernise and democratise, after decades of corrupt and brutal regimes. In the end, the US seems just as confused as Mubarak about the direction of events.

Mubarak got the chair, the Egyptain people got the power, by Carlos Latuff

BREAKING NEWS!

Protesters outraged over Mubarak address, vow to continue revolution: Ahram online

Ahram Online, Friday 11 Feb 2011

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir sq and downtown Cairo this evening to celebrate what they believed was the imminant stepping down by President Hosny Mubarak were dumbfounded, then outraged as Mubarak finally addressed the nation on TV. Though Mubarak concluded his address by announcing the transfer of his powers to the vice president, he repeatedly asserted in the course of the address that he will remain in power until the end of his term in September.
Chanting “down with Mubarak”, “down with the regime”, the protesters vowed to mainting their occupation of Tahrir sq and their demonstrations until they bring Mubarak and his regime down, once and for all. They expect to bring millions to the streets in Cairo and across the nation in tomorrow’s Friday of Decision protest.

Egypt: A new wave of workers strikes and sit-ins: Ahram Online

Mass protests demanding change have triggered a fresh wave of mass strikes and workers’ sit-ins across the country Wednesday, spotlighting long-ignored economic demands
Wednesday 9 Feb 2011

Workers in Cairo joined thousands of state employees on strike Thursday in spreading labor unrest that has pumped further strength and momentum into Egypt’s wave of anti-government protests. Writing in Arabic on placard center-left reads “Increase basic pay” and on placard center-right “End of work pension: 60 months. Infection risk pay: 100 percent. Rule No. 48 replacing rule No. 47.” (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Related
Five Suez Canal companies workers go on strike, no major disruptions witnessed yet

Demonstrations and strikes across Egypt

Steel and Canal shipyard workers strike in Suez continues
Following the “Million Man” demonstrations and mass strikes that escalated across Egypt on Tuesday, a new wave of mass strikes and workers’ sit-ins also spread on Wednesday.
Ahram Online has been receiving continuous reports of strikes breaking out in both public and private companies across the country, many of which are still being confirmed. At the time of publishing, the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS) had confirmed the following:

More than 2000 workers started a strike in Helwan’s silk factories and circulated the office of the company’s chairman demanding his exclusion.

Thousands of workers have started a strike in Helwan’s coke factories demanding higher wages and full-time contracts.

In Mahala’s Spinning and Weaving factory, hundreds started a sit-in in front of the administration building.

In Kafr El-Zaiat hospital, 1500 nurses started a sit-in demanding their late wages.

Four hundred workers in Suez’s Egypt National Steel Factory started an open strike demanding higher wages.

In Menoufeia, more than 750 of Schweppes factory workers started a sit-in demanding higher wages.

More than 800 of the spinning and weaving workers in Menoufeia started a sit-in demanding higher wages.

In Cairo, 200 workers from the General Committee for Drug Supervision started a sit-in demanding full time contracts and higher wages.

Apart from the demands calling for democratic reforms that have triggered Egypt’s mass protests, social and economic needs have been at the core of the country’s political unrest in recent years.

Although a 2010 court ruling demanded that a new minimum wage be set, the government promised to set a minimum of only LE400 per month (about $70), allowing tensions to soar.

Catapulting, by Carlos Latuff

Egypt’s Mubarak refuses to quit: BBC

President Mubarak addressed the nation in a television broadcastContinue reading the main story
Egypt Unrest

Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak has said he will stay in office and transfer all power only after September’s presidential election.

His comments in a national TV address confounded earlier reports that he was preparing to stand down immediately.

Mr Mubarak said he would delegate some powers to Vice-President Omar Suleiman, but the details of this remain unclear.

Thousands of anti-government protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square reacted angrily to his announcement.

There were chants of “Down with Mubarak”, and protesters waved their shoes in disgust. Thousands were reported to be heading towards the presidential palace some distance away.

The BBC’s Paul Adams, in Tahrir Square, said the mood contrasted dramatically with the celebratory, almost party atmosphere that existed in the hours running up to President Mubarak’s televised address.

Mr Mubarak had previously pledged not to stand in September’s poll, and said he would stay on to oversee a process of constitutional change.

Negotiations between the government and opposition groups have made little progress, with protesters disillusioned at plans for reform put forward by Mr Mubarak’s government.

Continue reading the main story
At the scene

Yolande Knell
BBC News, Tahrir Square, Cairo
This was the third time that President Mubarak has disappointed anti-government protesters since this uprising began by refusing to step down.

At the same time as he said on state television that he felt “pain in my heart for what I hear from some of my countrymen”, huge crowds of Egyptians were yelling “Be gone” and waving their shoes in dismay.

Mr Mubarak did try to reach out to young people, praising them and promising that the blood of their “martyrs” would “not go down the drain”. He restated his commitments to constitutional reforms and a peaceful transition of power in September’s election. He mentioned handing some powers to his vice-president, crucially without expanding on this point.

Some parts of this speech were condescending, with the president addressing Egyptians as “a father to his children”. He also answered rumours he had left the country by stating: “I will not separate from the soil until I am buried beneath it.”

Anger looks set to increase with more demonstrations already planned to follow Friday prayers. Many people chanted “tomorrow, tomorrow” as they left Tahrir Square.

The Egyptian ambassador to the US, Sameh Shoukry, suggested Vice President Suleiman was now the “de facto head of state” following Mr Mubarak’s speech, but this has not been confirmed.

In his address, Mr Mubarak said: “I express a commitment to carry on and protect the constitution and the people and transfer power to whomever is elected next September in free and transparent elections.”

Directly addressing protesters “in Tahrir Square and beyond” in what he said was “a speech from the heart”, Mr Mubarak, 82, said: “I am not embarrassed to listen to the youth of my country and to respond to them.”

He apologised to the families of protesters killed in clashes with the security forces in recent weeks, and said those responsible for their deaths would be punished.

Mr Mubarak added that the country’s emergency laws would only be lifted when conditions were right, and said he would ignore “diktats from abroad”.

He also appeared to call for the end of protests against his 30-year rule that began on 25 January.

“Egypt has gone through difficult times and we cannot allow these to carry on,” he said. “The damage to our economy will lead to a situation in which the youth calling for reform will be the first to be affected.”

‘Go home’
Mr Suleiman, speaking after Mr Mubarak’s address, said the protests had had an effect, and a process of constitutional change would now go ahead.

He added that President Mubarak had empowered him to preserve security and stability in Egypt, and restore normality – and he urged the protesters to return home.

“Youth of Egypt: go back home, back to work, the nation needs you to develop, to create. Don’t listen to radio and TV, whose aim is to tarnish Egypt,” he said.

Activist Mustafa Naggar, responding to the leadership’s statements, said: “The street is fed up with Mubarak. If Mubarak leaves the country, he will help to calm the crisis. If he continues, he will lead Egyptians into chaos.

“Plans for tomorrow stand. We will march in the millions to Tahrir Square and other locations.”

Leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei, a former head of the United Nations atomic watchdog, tweeted: “Egypt will explode. Army must save the country now.”

Among the first reaction from the US – a key ally of Egypt – was a statement from Senator John McCain, in which he described President Mubarak’s announcement that he will remain in power as “deeply unfortunate and troubling”.

He added: “The voices of the Egyptian people are growing louder and more unified, and they are not demanding partial transfers of power or minor adjustments to the current government.”

US President Barack Obama has convened a meeting with his national security team at the White House following President Mubarak’s speech. The US government had in recent days stepped up its call for the protesters’ concerns to be addressed.

The European Union’s chief diplomat, Baroness Ashton, said: “The time for change is now. President Mubarak has not yet opened the way to faster and deeper reforms.

“We will pay close attention to the response by the Egyptian people in the coming hours and days.”

Earlier, the secretary-general of the Mr Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party, Hossam Badrawi, had said the right thing for the president to do would be to step aside – and that he did not expect Mr Mubarak to be president on Friday.

At the same time, Egypt’s military announced it was standing ready to “protect the nation”. State news agency Mena reported that the high council of the armed forces was in continuous session “to protect the nation, its gains and the aspirations of the people”.

Defiant Mubarak refuses to resign: Al Jazeera online

Egyptian president vows to remain in office until his term ends in September, and not bow down to ‘foreign pressure’.

Hosni Mubarak, the embattled Egyptian president, has refused to step down from his post, saying that he will not bow to “foreign pressure” in a televised address to the nation on Thursday evening.

Putting to rest widespread speculations that he will quit, Mubarak announced that he was delegating some authorities to his new vice-president, Omar Suleiman, a close confidante.

In a much anticipated speech, Mubarak said he had put into place a framework that would lead to the amendment of six constitutional articles (including articles 77, 88, 93 and 189, and the annulment of article 179).

“I can not and will not accept to be dictated orders from outside, no matter what the source is,” Mubarak said.

He said he was addressing his people with a “speech from the heart”.

Mubarak said that he is “totally committed to fulfilling all the promises” that he has earlier made regarding constitutional and political reform.

“I have laid down a vision … to exit the current crisis, and to realise the demands voiced by the youth and citizens … without undermining the constitution in a manner that ensures the stability of our society,” he said.

Mubarak said he had “initiated a very constructive national dialogue … and this dialogue has yielded preliminary agreement in stances and views”.

A state of emergency, which has been in place since Mubarak took power 30 years ago, remains in place, though the president promised to lift it as some unspecified point in the future.

“I will remain adamant to shoulder my responsibility, protecting the constitution and safeguarding the interests of Egyptians [until the next elections].

“This is the oath I have taken before God and the nation, and I will continue to keep this oath,” he said.

Mubarak said the current “moment was not against my personality, against Hosni Mubarak”, and concluded by saying that he would not leave Egyptian soil until he was “buried under it”.

Mubarak’s comments were not well-received by hundreds of thousands gathered at Cairo’s Tahrir [Liberation] Square and in other cities, who erupted into angry chants against him. Pro-democracy protesters had been expecting Mubarak to resign, and their mood of celebration quickly turned to extreme anger as they heard the president’s speech.

Rawya Rageh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Liberation Square said the “mood completely altered as the president progressed with his speech”, with protesters expressing “frustration and anger” at him.

Hundreds took off their shoes and waved them angrily at a screen showing Mubarak’s speech, shouting “Leave, leave!”

Mohamed ElBaradei, an opposition figure and former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, responded to the speech by saying “Egypt will explode. Army must save the country now”, on the microblogging website Twitter.

‘Go back home’

Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, addressed the nation in a televised address shortly after Mubarak’s speech, and called on protesters to “go back home” and “go back to work”.

”]He said he had been delegated by the president “the responsibilities to safeguard the stability of Egypt, to safeguard its … assets … to restore peace and security to the Egyptian public, and to restore the normal way of life”.

He said that a process of dialogue with the opposition had yielded positive results, and that “a roadmap has been laid down to achieve the majority of demands”.

The vice-president said that steps had to be taken to “safeguard the revolution of the youth”, but also called for protesters to “join hands” with the government, rather than risk “chaos”.

He told Egyptians “not [to] listen to satellite television stations, whose main purpose is to fuel sedition and to drive a wedge among people”.

Army meeting

Earlier, the Supreme Council of Egyptian Armed Forces had met to discuss the ongoing protests against Mubarak’s government.

In a statement entitled ‘Communique Number One’, televised on state television, the army said it had convened the meeting response to the current political turmoil, and that it would continue to convene such meetings.

Thurday’s meeting was chaired by Mohamed Tantawi, the defence minister, rather than Mubarak, who, as president, would normally have headed the meeting.

“Based on the responsibility of the armed forces and its commitment to protect the people and its keenness to protect the nation… and in support of the legitimate demands of the people [the army] will continue meeting on a continuous basis to examine measures to be taken to protect the nation and its gains and the ambitions of the great Egyptian people,” the statement.

Tens of thousands poured into Tahrir Square after the army statement was televised. Thousands also gathered in Alexandria, Egypt’s second city, our correspondent there said.

Earlier, Hassan al-Roweni, an Egyptian army commander, told protesters in the square that “everything you want will be realised”.

Hassam Badrawi, the secretary general of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), told the BBC and Channel 4 News earlier on that he expected Mubarak to hand over his powers to Omar Suleiman, the vice-president during his address.

“I think the right thing to do now is to take the action that would satisfy … protesters,” Badrawi told BBC television in a live interview.

Ahmed Shafiq, the country’s prime minister, also told the BBC that the president may step down on Thursday evening, and that the situation would be “clarified soon”. He told the Reuters news agency, however, that Mubarak remained in control, and that “everything is still in the hands of the president”.

However, Anas el-Fekky, Egypt’s information minister, denied all reports of Mubarak resigning from early in the day.

“The president is still in power and he is not stepping down,” el-Fekky told Reuters. “The president is not stepping down and everything you heard in the media is a rumour.”

Mubarak met with Suleiman, the vice-president, at the presidential palace ahead of his address.

Protesters expected resignation

Mahmoud Zaher, a retired general in the Egyptian army, told Al Jazeera earlier in the day that Mubarak’s absence from the army meeting was a “clear and strong indication that [Mubarak] is no longer present”, implying that the Egyptian president was not playing a role in governance any longer.

”]Protesters had earlier responded to statements from political leaders as indicating that they had been successful in their key demand of wanting Mubarak to step down.

Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who has played a key role in helping protesters get organised, said on the microblogging site Twitter on Thursday evening: “Mission accomplished. Thanks to all the brave young Egyptians.”

Ahead of the speech, Jacky Rowland, our correspondent in Tahrir Square, described the atmosphere as “electric”, with “standing room only” in the central Cairo area. She said that thousands gathered there were “celebrating a victory which has been anticipated, rather than actually achieved”.

In Alexandria, Jamal ElShayyal, our correspondent, said the atmosphere turned “from joyous to now furious” as Mubarak completed his speech.

EDITOR: Special treatment for racists

Read below about the jokey way in which Israeli police is treating this case – they come to the rabbi’s home to tell him he will be arrested, then go away, having done their job. They obviously need not actually arrest him!

Police issue arrest warrant for rabbi that supported book which justifies killing non-Jews: Haaretz

Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, senior figure in religious Zionism wanted for questioning for his endorsement of the book ‘Torat Hamelech.’

The police have issued an arrest warrant for Dov Lior, the head rabbi of Kiryat Arba and a senior figure in religious Zionism. The warrant follows the rabbi’s refusal to appear for questioning on the support he gave for the controversial book “Torat Hamelech,” which justifies killing non-Jews.

The commander of the Hebron police visited Lior’s home several days ago and informed him that there was an arrest warrant against him. The rabbi told the officer that he will not take part in the dishonoring of the Torah and that he would not show up for questioning by the police, which he claimed was aimed at “silencing rabbis.”

In November 2009, rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur published “Torat Hamelech” which discusses the conditions according to Jewish law under which one may kill gentiles. A criminal investigation ensued as a result of the book’s publication.

Both Lior and Rabbi (and former Shas MK ) Yaakov Yosef, who also supported the book, refused to cooperate with police, issuing a letter instead stating that the Torah is not subject to police investigations. People close to Lior expressed outrage at the arrest warrant.

“The state prosecution and police have the audacity to issue an arrest warrant for a great Torah figure,” one person said. “The purpose of the questioning, like that of dozens of rabbis in recent months, is to silence them. Whoever closes the cases against the heads of the Arab community who call for the destruction of the State of Israel or leftist professors in academia who call for harming IDF soldiers should think twice before issuing an arrest warrant against Rabbi Lior.”

Sources close to the rabbi said that “he is adamant about not appearing at the questioning on his own accord in order to put an end to the persecution of the Torah and bolster other rabbis.”

MK Michael Ben-Ari (Habayit Hayehudi ) also backed the rabbi, calling the warrant “a travesty.”

“This is a regime of fear and one wonders where have all the left wingers gone, who just a few days ago spoke of being silenced,” he said. “The issuance of an arrest warrant against a great Torah figure of such magnitude, when all this is about is the backing he gave to a book, is a crossing of a red line, McCarthyism … Would they have behaved this way against an academic of the left?”

The ascent of the Palestinian pharaoh: The Electronic Intifada

Abdaljawad Hamayel, 9 February 2011

Palestinians in the Dheisheh refugee camp in the occupied West Bank demonstrate in support of the Egyptian people, 6 February. (Luay Sababa/MaanImages)

“They are marching to freedom, while we march to surrender.”

These were my mother’s words as she reacted spontaneously, but intensely to the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions and lamented over Palestinians’ self-inflicted wounds emanating from the Palestinian Authority and its numerous failures.

Economic dependency and an oppressive security state is the recipe that many dictatorial, one-person, or one-party regimes apply across the region. This model was followed by the once American-supported, and then American-deposed Saddam Hussein, to Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, who was first a pariah in the West and then became its darling, to Tunisia’s Zine El Abedine Ben Ali who was overthrown by his people, among others.

And while the Egyptian people stand steadfast in an effort to overthrow their own Pharoah, a similar “pharoah regime” is steadily being built for Palestinians in the West Bank. It is not only surrender we are marching to, but we are marching — under PA tutelage — toward a typical one-party, pseudo-security state.

“Pseudo” because it is not even a state — this entity exists under Israeli occupation. And the “security” is increasingly repressive towards dissenting voices, groups and political parties.

Recently, the PA suppressed a march in solidarity with the Tunisian uprising and repeatedly questioned one of the organizers in an attempt to intimidate him and his colleagues into canceling a planned protest near the Egyptian diplomatic mission meant to show that Palestinians who are in constant struggle for their own freedom also support others who seek theirs (“Palestinian Authority Disrupts Egypt Solidarity Protest in Ramallah,” Human Rights Watch, 30 January 2011).

On Saturday, 5 February, the PA, frustrated with an inability to confront a march by 2,000 Palestinians in Ramallah’s city center, waited until the crowd started to head home, to send in their own agents dressed as civilians in order to arrest and intimidate the remaining protesters, as was documented in a video shared on YouTube.

The Egyptian model which is crumbling on the banks of the Nile is being applied to the occupied West Bank with the vehement support of the European Union, the United States, Israel and a segment of willing Palestinians. Most of the small Palestinian GDP comes directly from external aid provided by the aforementioned countries. And much of the touted “economic growth” of 8 percent in 2010 stems not from foreign direct investment or productive economic activities, but from this injection of aid, and rent-seeking economic behavior by elites.

The public sector in the PA is the biggest and single largest contributor to GDP growth and to the over-inflated job creation. Some economic growth is generated by infrastructure projects, including controversial road networks, which many accused the PA of building in preparation for the annexation of huge parts of Jerusalem by Israel after the signing of an agreement along the lines recently disclosed in the Palestine Papers, detailed records of Israeli-PA negotiations leaked to Al Jazeera.

An “economic package” recently proposed by Israel and Quartet envoy Tony Blair for the West Bank — which includes an extension of PA “security control” to seven towns, and provides more economic help to Palestinian-dominated areas in occupied East Jerusalem and villages surrounding it — is no more than a signal of appreciation for the work the PA has been conducting on behalf of Israel.

Alongside the facade of “economic development” which in and of itself is a noble venture, if done appropriately, the PA has for the past five years been building an effective, efficient and ideological security apparatus. The ideology espoused by the security apparatus has nothing to do with Palestinian Basic Law as in any other rule-bound state, but has to do with personal and party loyalties to the PA president and his political line.

This pseudo-security state is maintained and strengthened through the high salaries of those in the highest echelons of the varying security organizations, salaries that are funded through foreign aid.

By providing them with financial comfort, those heading these organizations are economically, politically and socially dependent on the president and his entourage. This process is not limited to the highest echelons but trickles to the smallest intelligence informants who are given financial compensation for their work. This complex security network includes taxi drivers, so-called students, regular workers, coffee shop owners and others.

Their role is simple, acting as an information stream, providing detailed data relating to the smallest personal details of regular Palestinian citizens in order to intimidate them, if they ever dare to move from the increasingly restrictive private sphere to an active political one. This oppressive and intrusive network is the “foreigners’ gift” to us — US General Keith Dayton along with the European Union Police Mission in the occupied Palestinian territories have rewarded Palestinian acquiescence by helping us build our “own” Palestinian Special Police Force and security forces, who are not educated in the limits of law or the respect of human rights and dignity.

Instead, they know how to infiltrate and subdue big and small demonstrations, and are trained in the newest techniques of torture and they are more than ready to apply the axe of repression if commanded to do so.

Haaretz reporter Amira Hass, who witnessed the suppression of the 5 February demonstration, writes “one could not help but notice the European, mainly French, scent that wafted from al-Manara Square in Ramallah where the Palestinian Authority once again suppressed a demonstration of support for the Egyptian people that evening.” What Hass notes is that the PA police forces that are now being used for political repression have been trained and funded by European Union countries, especially France (“Palestinian security suppressing West Bank fervor over Egypt protests,” 7 February 2011).

Contrary to the PA president’s and his appointed prime minister’s claims that such forces are meant to provide security to the Palestinians themselves, the training of this police and the way they conduct their affairs, specifically after this month’s events, show that their sole and ultimate role is the preservation of an oppressive regime capable of protecting and dealing with Israel, with or without popular Palestinian approval.

After all, Israeli anxiety over Egypt and the prospect of the erosion of the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty as a result of the democratic revolution still taking place shows their vested interest in creating a Palestinian “pharaoh’s regime” here in Palestine. A pharaoh who agrees to the creation of a sub-state, completely dependent on Israel, lacking actual sovereignty. A pharaoh who is capable of giving up large parts of Jerusalem, abdicates the right of return and has in his hands a mix of a security, media and economic tools to willfully or forcibly impose such a deal on Palestinians in the West Bank and later Gaza, while excluding the majority of Palestinians who live in the diaspora.

This process of “double occupation” will eventually give rise to Palestinian fury. Those who have revolted endless times against the Israeli occupation, who have paid in blood and tears and who remain resolute, will not stand silent as they see their own leadership lead them to absolutism of tyranny.

Abdaljawad Hamayel is a Palestinian commentator completing his MA in the Johns Hopkins Schools of Advanced International Studies, Bologna Center.

Israel’s revolution will be the regime rising against the masses: Haaretz

In Israel, it’s not the masses who will rise up against the regime, but the opposite; the government will shake off the checks and balances restraining its power.
By Aluf Benn
The Israeli revolution won’t take place in town squares, but in the corridors of power. It won’t erupt over increases in the price of fuel and bread, but over fears of anarchy and a loss of governance. It’s not the masses who will rise up against the regime, but the opposite. It’s government that will shake off the checks and balances restraining its power.

The fault of the system that was revealed over the appointment of the Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff threatens to shake the foundations of the Israeli republic. This can be seen in the failure of leadership and proper functioning shown by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak; the undermining of political control in the army; and the intervention by the High Court of Justice, the state comptroller and the attorney general to determine who would be the next chief of staff and who would quit in frustration. It all prompted a public counterreaction.

The calls for strengthening government and the end of rule by jurists and the media have been growing. Instead of the slogan “corrupt ones, you have become repulsive,” we’ll get the slogan “purists, you’ve gone too far.”

The loss of faith in our elected leaders has been compounded by concerns over the increased external threats if the Mubarak regime collapses and Egypt becomes an Iranian clone. The fear is growing but the country’s leaders are having problems projecting authority and a sense of security. In our Bible classes, we all studied the political commentary regarding the Book of Judges. “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes,” the Bible says. When that feeling becomes fixed in the public consciousness, the road to a remedy in the form of a “strongman” who will put things right at home and smite our enemies abroad, like the judges and kings of old, gets shorter.

In the Israel of 2011, unlike biblical times, you don’t need to look for the strongman hiding behind the she-asses. He’s waiting at the foreign minister’s office for his turn. More than any other politician, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman constantly advocates the establishment of a presidential system of government. That’s his “truth,” his solution to heal the ills of the current political system.

Lieberman’s bills in the last Knesset to provide for a separation of powers and a presidential form of government were sloppily drafted but easy to understand. The prime minister would become the country’s executive branch. He would appoint “professional” ministers and have oversight over the IDF. Balance would be achieved through mutual deterrence: The prime minister would be able to dissolve the Knesset if a parliamentary majority opposed his policy, and the Knesset, with 80 votes, would be able to dismiss him. Lieberman is promising a stable government of technocrats that would not be dependent on a coalition. His system wouldn’t have superfluous ministers without portfolio or deputy ministers like that of Netanyahu’s government.

The more the government’s authority is undermined and Netanyahu is perceived as an ineffective weakling, the more the public will be captivated by Lieberman’s ideas. This is particularly so if he tempts them with provisions like eliminating the right to petition the High Court of Justice, curtailing the state comptroller’s authority and limiting freedom of the press. In his presidential system of government, the prime minister would appoint an IDF chief of staff of his own way of thinking. Grumbling neighbors, nosy journalists and badgering lawyers would not be able to interfere.

The parliamentary system is prone to crises and is hard to navigate, but it has two positive attributes. It limits the prime minister’s power and ensures representation of rival camps in Israeli society. In a presidential form of government, the winner takes all. Losing votes go to waste and minorities are not represented in the government.

Such a system suits the Israeli right wing, which advocates government by the majority and subjugation of the Arab community and the “old elites.” Netanyahu has ridden this wave in the past. In the current Knesset, Lieberman inherited it as leader of the right and the leading nationalist legislative force, while Likud trails behind.

Lieberman didn’t interfere in the crisis over the chief of staff’s appointment, and while he still awaits a decision over whether he will be indicted, he is quietly enjoying the erosion of his rivals’ public standing: the prime minister, the defense minister and the judicial system. Just a few more controversies at the top and the calls to “let them run the country” will be translated into longing for a change in the system of government and installing a strong leader at the top.

Crisis situations such as the current one are prone to such turnabouts. The so-called stinking maneuver of 1990 that caused revulsion toward the political system gave rise to the direct election of the prime minister, which was later repealed. The foiling of Yoav Galant’s appointment as chief of staff and the expected revelations in the Boaz Harpaz forgery case in the chief of staff’s office could spark the next constitutional change.

Crazy? If we had been told a month ago that millions of Egyptians would take to the streets and demand the expulsion of President Hosni Mubarak, would we have believed it?

Egypt’s revolution through a million eyes: The Electronic Intifada

Ahmad Barqawi, 10 February 2011

Repulsive, vicious and grotesque. These three words aptly describe the now widely-circulated video of an alleged Egyptian police van intentionally hitting a group of peaceful demonstrators on one of those narrow side streets of Cairo, knocking down at least three young persons and terrorizing a startled group of onlookers and passers-by.

In some strange way, this speeding vehicle came to symbolize an entire regime heading down a road with no brake pedals and a tank full of determination to crush head-on whatever and whoever stood in its way. All I could think of while watching this footage is what it must have felt like for the poor victims’ families to see these outrageous images played over and over on Al Jazeera.

Evidently that “incident” was part of an insidious pattern, for another similar video surfaced only a few days ago on several social networking websites. The video appears to show a diplomatic van running over a crowd of Egyptians at full speed like a ruthless beast of prey before taking flight, leaving the injured and the critically wounded — perhaps even the dead — scattered on the street. This video, according to Al Jazeera, was recorded on 28 January, the “Friday of Rage.”

That day witnessed quite a few other bloody episodes of this sort of rampant “terror on wheels,” like the horrific attack by water cannon on civilian protesters while they were praying by armored police cars on Qasr al-Nil bridge, or the huge fire truck which deliberately slammed into a young man, knocking him unconscious in Damanhour city. So much for the Egyptian interior ministry’s publicly-announced replacement of the police slogan from “The police and people in service of the state” to “The police in the service of the people.” I guess old habits die hard.

Yet nowhere was the savagery of the Egyptian police more sickening than in Alexandria, where another video showed an unarmed civilian being shot execution-style by police officers. By now millions have seen the video of the young man walking slowly toward the officers, raising his hands in the air and placing his life in theirs, probably thinking that there was absolutely no way “law enforcement” officers would ever hurt an innocent and clearly unarmed man. But the crack of a gunshot could be heard, as the man fell to the ground — just as he had started to back away from the officers. Off screen is a woman, either the person who took the video from a roof top, or someone with her, shouting “You animal! Why are you killing people!” Her horrified scream and sobs speak for all of us.

We have to hand it to the Egyptian regime also for introducing a fabulous new word into our vernacular — baltaga, which roughly translates as “thuggish behavior.” It was used to describe the scene when out of nowhere a bizarre and rather colorful caravan of horses and camels accompanied by a handful of pro-government supporters and agents stormed Tahrir Square and attacked pro-democracy demonstrators with sticks, swords, stones and molotov cocktails. This baltaga transformed what had been an exemplary and peaceful popular uprising into a frighteningly bleak landscape of street fights and stone-throwing battles, costing the lives of several persons and injuring hundreds more.

It is not only tear gas canisters, batons, water canons and rubber bullets that are in store for the common Egyptian protester these days. The arsenal of oppression apparently includes speeding vehicles targeting pedestrians, fire bombs, bands of thugs and cutting off Internet and telephone service. It also includes cracking down on journalists, both Egyptian and foreign — especially Al Jazeera, which saw its offices attacked and closed, its licenses withdrawn, its equipment confiscated, its staff detained and its signal removed from Nilesat.

But with today’s technology, every person on the street with a cell phone can be a reporter and the entire world can bear witness almost in real time to what happens in the dark alleyways and secret corners of a police state. Yet even this has its risks.

Ahmad Muhammad Mahmoud, a reporter for Al-Ahram newspaper, became the first journalist to be killed during the uprising when he was shot dead by a sniper while taking cell phone images of a demonstration in the street below his balcony. Someone must have seen a serious threat in that little camera phone to coldly take an innocent life for it. A symbolic funeral march was held for Mahmoud, attended by thousands, on 7 February.

We owe thanks to the media — in all its forms — for its comprehensive coverage of the Egyptian revolution. This round-the-clock reporting of events probably saved lives. Just imagine what would have happened to the young men and women demonstrating in Tahrir Square in the absence of local and foreign reporters and camera lenses.

If it weren’t for this coverage we wouldn’t have known about the atrocities that were committed against Egyptian activists in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, nor of the scare tactics and violent intimidation used in the attempt to squash the voice of the people.

We can be sure that by the time the dust settles and the smoke clears, plenty more incriminating pictures and videos will appear, chronicling a popular revolution in the making with all its glorious moments and its dark phases. For documenting everything from the colorful protests in Tahrir Square as well as the baltaga, the huge marches of millions in Alexandria and Cairo, the awful scenes of cars running over pedestrians, we owe our thanks to many people whose names we will never know. One we will always remember, who gave his life, was Ahmad Mahmoud.

Ahmad Barqawi is a Jordanian freelance columnist and writer based in Amman, Jordan. He has done several studies, statistical analysis and researches on economic and social development in Jordan.

An electronic Intifada: Al Ahram Weekly

When does an uprising become a revolution, asks Salah Eissa*
Long after its final chapter has closed the Egyptian youth Intifada or uprising that opened on 25 January 2011 will continue to perplex historians and political scientists who are still stumped as to whether to categorise it as a mass riot, a popular insurrection, or a people’s revolution. The latter classification is favoured by the leaders of the Intifada and a portion of its most ardent supporters, one of whom went so far as to describe it as “the first Egyptian grassroots revolution since the Pharaonic era.”

According to historians of revolutions, a mass riot is a violent act of protest that erupts spontaneously and lacks organisation and sufficient political awareness. It is generally given to anarchy, violence and rampant vandalism, offering the authorities it revolted against the opportunity to stamp it out. As a result, it subsides after a short period without achieving any of its aims.

A popular insurrection, by contrast, has a certain degree of organisation, political awareness and clarity in its objectives, which are generally of a limited nature. This form of mass protest, therefore, tends to last longer and achieve better results.

Revolutions, however, are on a different scale. They seek more comprehensive and radical change. They are more tightly organised, reflect a greater political awareness, set more clearly defined goals and have greater stamina. Therefore, they generally produce sweeping changes in society that yield a new political system and a different social order in terms of class structure.

The common denominator that links these three types of mass action together is that it is impossible to predict exactly when they will erupt. The most one can do is to note the existence of a “revolutionary climate” shaped by widespread discontent on the part of the governed at the way they have been ruled and the inability of the rulers to persist in the same manner of rule.

In such a climate, mass riots and popular uprisings can be expected at any moment. All it takes is a single incident that can spark the rage of the people, or a portion of the people, and drive them into the streets where they become the kernel around which amass the various factions of the discontented, setting in motion the wheels of revolution. Naturally, it is not rare for repeated outbursts of rioting to take place before leading to an uprising that culminates in a revolution.

The 25 January Intifada was as sudden as other Egyptian uprisings, the most prominent being those of 1935-36, 21 February 1946, and 18 and 19 January 1977. In the first two instances there was a prearranged date for some kind of protest action. The first was marked by the statement issued by the British foreign minister in early November 1935 announcing his government’s opposition to the restoration of the 1923 Constitution in Egypt. The second set 21 February 1946 as the date for a national demonstration by all political forces and parties, including the government at the time, to demand the evacuation of the British occupiers from the country.

The same thing applies to this year’s events. 25 January had been designated as the date for a demonstration in front of the Ministry of Interior to protest the excesses perpetrated by the police. The surprise in all three cases was that what had been anticipated as an ordinary act of protest escalated into a mass uprising.

The 25 January Intifada shares a number of traits with its predecessors, yet it is also unique in several ways. In all three cases, the leaders were educated, middle-class young people, a major portion of whom were students. This is the segment of the populace that has formed the backbone of all Egyptian uprisings and revolutions since the turn of the 19th century.

It played a major role in the first Cairo revolution in 1799 against the French expedition to Egypt, when students and younger members of Al-Azhar took to the streets and were then joined by other segments of the people. Al-Azhar students were also out in force to support the Orabi Rebellion of 1881, which was championed by students of the secular schools that had been established in the Mohamed Ali era.

Students from what were then known as the “upper schools” and today are the universities were Mustafa Kamel’s chief base of support when leading the National Awakening movement against the British occupation in the first decade of the 20th century. A decade later, they, along with Al-Azhar students and young Egyptian lawyers, formed the primary force in the 1919 Revolution. In like manner, students were at the vanguard of the popular uprisings in 1935, 1946, 1968, 1972 and 1977.

It is important to bear in mind when considering this feature of the revolutionary condition in modern Egyptian history that students and other members of the intelligentsia, who make their living from working with their brains in various professions, only initiated and led the uprisings. No Intifada evolved into a revolution until the intelligentsia was joined by other portions of the populace, notably workers and farmers. Without these classes, the Intifada remains just an Intifada and does not become a revolution.

The unique feature of the 25 January Intifada is that it was born of a mode of social interaction made possible by the IT revolution and modern social-networking channels made available by the Internet. Facebook and other such websites enabled the creation of extensive networks of indirect relationships between young people ranging in age from 17 to 30 and offered them forums in which they could exchange ideas and opinions and agree on certain positions without actually knowing each other.

These modes of interaction came to replace more conventional ones relying on face-to-face contact. More significantly, they also replaced conventional forms of political organisation, such as political parties and associations organised hierarchically in order to unify the opinions of their members and generate a unified political will.

Those from the older generations who have participated in or studied Egypt’s popular uprisings will realise that relying on this modern mode of sociopolitical interaction alone cannot sustain political circumstances conducive to supporting demands for political and constitutional reform. Indeed, the risk is that it will sap the energies of the young people in dialogues among themselves, while at the same time depriving them of the knowledge, expertise and organisational abilities they might gain from the older generations. It might also divert them from joining the political parties that are active in the campaign for reform, and this would weaken the political and constitutional reform movement.

The 25 January uprising revealed the role social-networking sites can play in revolutionary mobilisation. Yet, perhaps one of its most significant accomplishments is that it politically engaged an entire generation, much of which had been absent from, or had little influence in, the political domain in Egypt.

Egypt filmmakers joined massive protests: Ahram online

Filmmakers and artists march to Tahrir Square in their thousands
Menna Taher, Thursday 10 Feb 2011

Amid the massive strikes by workers, lawyers and medical doctors around the country, another protest erupted by the Cinema Syndicate on 10 January for cinema makers, as well as writers and artists. Many entities have been protesting against the corruption within, the cinema makers at the syndicate were no different.

One of the main demands was for the head of the syndicate, Mossad Fouda to resign for not supporting the filmmakers’ stance towards the 25 January revolution and for refusing to sign the statement issued by the cinema makers.

The statement demanded  that the head of the syndicate resign and  the syndicate takes back the statements that Fouda has released,  such as condemning the revolution and supporting the corrupt regime.

It also states that the cinema makers will resume their protest in Tahrir until all the demands of the revolution are met and calls for the Minister of the Media, Anas El Fekky, to resign as well as all the heads of television and newspapers, who contributed to the brainwashing campaign.

The artists’ protest began at  the syndicate but moved from Adly Street., where the syndicate is located, towards Talaat Harb square, then into Bostan Street and back to the syndicate, finally reaching Tahrir square from Soliman Pasha Street.  It is also worth noting that several other marches were encountered throughout including a massive crowd of people from the lawyer’s syndicate.

Around two thousand were protesting including well-known actors such as Khaled Abou El Naga, Amr Waked, Yousra El Lozy, Asser Yassin and Khaled Abdallah who have all been active in the protests from the beginning. Other independent filmmakers were present such as Aida El Kashef, Tamer El Saeed and Maggie Morgan,as well as veteran filmmaker Mohamed Khan. We also spotted directors such as Mohamed Yassin, Hani Khalifa, Ahmed Atef, Mohamed Shenawy among many others. Scriptwriters Tamer Habib, Hani Fawzy, Nasser Abdel Rahman, Mohammed Hassan, Sayed Ragab, and Wessam Soliman also participated. Protests were joined by producers the El Adl brothers.

The protest also included many other artists such as visual artist Shaymaa Aziz, choreographers Tamer Fathy and Karima Mansour, musician Hisham Gabr, sound engineer Tamer Demerdash and film editor Dalia Nasser. As the protests were heading towards Tahrir square, passersby joined in.

It is worth mentioning that as artists’ demonstrations were taking place in Downdown Cairo, moving towards Tahrir, Anas El Fekky has been appointed the new Minister of Culture, in parallel to his responsibilities as the Minister of the Media.

Mubarak delivers his final address, transfers powers to vice-president: Ahram Online

President Mubarak tonight announced he will be stepping back, rather than down, transferring all his powers to the vice president

Mubarak delivering what is likely his last address to the nation, Thursday February 10
In a historic retreat before the people’s will, and with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in open-ended session, President Hosni Mubarak, in a televised address to the nation, announced the transfer of his powers to Vice-President Omar Suleiman in accordance with Article 139 of the Constitution.

In the same address, Mubarak used his constituional powers, possibly for the very last time, by calling for the amendment of several articles of the constitution, governing presidential elections, as well as abolishing an article on cambatting terroirsm.

The president’s call for the amendment of the constitution in the very same address in which he surrendered his presidential powers provides the answer to the constitutional dilamma, which was being used by the state to try and dodge the people’s demand that the president step down. According to Article 139 of the Constitution, the President may transfer his powers to the vice president or the prime minister in case of extraordinary cricumstances, such as illness, that incapcitate him to perform his duties. The article in question, however, bars whom so ever the presidential powers are vested in from calling for constitutional amendments, declaring war or dissolving parliament.

It was actually a suggestion of representatives of the youth movements that one way out of that constitutional dilemma would be for the President to call for constitutional amendments in the very same address in which he vests his powers in the vice president, as a single package.

The way the president’s address was formulated however has had the hundreds of thousands gathered in Tahrir sq up in arms, as Mubarak kept insisting throughout the address that he will be staying in power until September.

Egypt crisis: Premature celebrations on Mubarak speech: BBC

By Yolande Knell

There was huge anticipation ahead of this speech by President Hosni Mubarak. Some protesters in Tahrir Square had already started parties and chants of “we brought down the regime”. It turned out they were premature.

The address when it came, later than expected, could only be heard through crackling speakers. Yet the crowd quickly picked up on the patronising tone, with Mr Mubarak likening himself to “a father speaking to his sons and daughters”.

He went on to praise the efforts of young activists, “dreaming of a bright future and shaping such a future”, and their “legitimate demands”. However, he once again overlooked their specific demand that he step down.

A few demonstrators wept as the realisation set in that this was not the speech for which they had waited. But the general mood quickly turned to anger. Some waved their shoes in an expression of contempt.

“This is not what we wanted to hear. We will continue our protest,” said one protester, Nasreen, sounding exasperated.

Others were unimpressed by the president’s repeated pledges to carry out democratic reforms.

“This regime will not be able to carry out these promised changes,” said Marawa. “They are constantly out of step with us. This regime has lost credibility. How can we trust this regime any more?”

Another spectator in the square was angered by promises to investigate the deaths of the protests’ “martyrs”, asking: “How can Mubarak appear on television saying he is sorry for those killed and injured when is the very one responsible?”

CIA prediction
An earlier statement by the Higher Council of the Armed Forces had raised expectations of a dramatic announcement. It said, ambiguously, that it would remain “in continuous session” to discuss how to safeguard “the aspirations of the great Egyptian people”.

Some wept as they realised this was not the speech for which they had waited
Soldiers had then told crowds in central Cairo to expect important news.

Adding to the tension, Hossam Badrawi, the new secretary general of the ruling NDP, told the BBC he would be surprised if Mr Mubarak was still president on Friday.

“I would be, because I think the right thing to do now is to take the action that would satisfy protesters,” he said.

Even the CIA director, Leon Panetta, was quoted as saying he believed there was a “strong likelihood” the Egyptian president would leave office.

It was in apparent response to such international interest that Mr Mubarak noted: “What I never did and will not do, is to listen to foreign diktats coming from abroad, whatever their sources or justifications.”

Military references
We are learning a lot about the 82-year-old president’s pride and resilience as this crisis unfolds. He continues to talk about “shouldering his responsibilities” for the nation and appeals to Egyptians’ sense of patriotism.

Outside of Tahrir Square, some Egyptians will have been impressed.

Despite handing over some “functions of the president” to his deputy, Omar Suleiman, for now Mr Mubarak retains the title of president and keeps control of political processes.

This includes what is now being referred to as “a road map” to implement democratic reforms and a “smooth and peaceful” transition of power.

Now speculation turns to the response of anti-government protesters. There is talk of possible marches to Egyptian state television or the presidential palace. Large numbers are again expected to descend on Tahrir Square after Friday prayers.

“Bokra, bokra,” – “tomorrow, tomorrow,” – is how many comforted themselves as they headed home.


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